The Burning Plain/Fast and Furious
 
Writer and Director Guillermo Arriaga weaves the seemingly unconnected tragedies of Sylvia (Charlize Theron), a single adult woman who can’t seem to get enough meaningless sex, but is obviously depressed and trying to run away from herself, and Gina (Kim Basinger), an unhappily married woman whose husband is no longer interested in her after her breast cancer surgery.  So, unsurprisingly, she seeks solace elsewhere, but that has family repercussions beyond her imagining, as her teenage daughter Mariana (Jennifer Lawrence) discovers the deceit but doesn’t know how to confront her mother.  Then there’s the prepubescent girl, Maria (Tessa la Norvind), who’s happily living with her Dad, until he’s in a plane crash and solemnly charges his best friend from his hospital bed to go find her Mom, who abandoned them when Maria was only two weeks old.  As a writer, Arriaga concentrates on the effects of sudden tragedy, and as a Director, he carefully layers his stories so that the viewer has to discover the connection between the characters.  “The Burning Plain” is strong on emotional impact, cavalier with nudity, and centered around sexuality, but happiness seems fleeting and elusive for everyone.
In “Fast And Furious” (now available on dvd), sexuality is more paraded----skinny models in skimpy outfits---but it’s more eye candy than seriously utilized.  The same is true with the inordinate musculature of the male characters, primarily Vin Diesel, who looks like steroids are still legal.  As a character, he either does the tough-guy laser-eyes, or he wrinkles his brow.  That’s the extent of his acting range.  But, it’s not about his emotionality so much as it is about the muscle cars, the drivers in the souped-up, modified, racers, who wreak havoc on the public roadways, and, if they’re good enough, get to run drugs for the big Mexican cartel.  Even the women are judged by their testosterone----how well can they jump from a speeding car onto a moving tanker truck?  Unlike “The Burning Plain,” this is not about plot intricacy, it’s simply petal-to-the-metal, adrenalin-laced action scenes.  The plot is merely a vehicle, in the one movie where a “real” car is never merely a vehicle.
 
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, Grace Presbyterian Church, Greenville , Texas